Solberg handed Welsh rally win amid tragedy

Sebastien Loeb had a comfortable 42-second victory in the Rally of Great Britain today, but with the event marred by a tragedy, Markko Martin's co-driver Michael Park killed in an accident on SS15 in his home rally (see separate story), Loeb took an ...

Solberg handed Welsh rally win amid tragedy
Listen to this article

Sebastien Loeb had a comfortable 42-second victory in the Rally of Great Britain today, but with the event marred by a tragedy, Markko Martin's co-driver Michael Park killed in an accident on SS15 in his home rally (see separate story), Loeb took an intentional time penalty, handing the win to Petter Solberg.

Sad celebrations: rally winner Petter Solberg and fellow drivers and codrivers pay tribute to Michael Park.
Photo by Subaru World Rally Team.
"The rally should have been stopped completely," said Loeb. "Marcus (Gronholm) didn't hesitate to do the right thing (by withdrawing). At this point it really doesn't matter who won the rally."

Celebrations were muted, with both podium ceremonies and press conferences canceled in the wake of the news of Park's tragic death, the first World Rally Championship fatality since 1993. Instead of champagne, the teams, drivers and spectators observed a moment of silence in Park's honor.

After Park's fatal accident, Peugeot immediately withdrew the team's other car, that of Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen, and the organizers also decided to cancel the two remaining stages (SS16 and SS17) in any case.

"Championships don't mean much compared to human lives," said Jean-Pierre Nicolas, the director of Peugeot Sport. "None of us wants to continue."

With Gronholm withdrawing out of respect to Park and thus scoring no points, Loeb would then have clinched the 2005 WRC championship. This was clearly not how the Citroen driver wanted to win a championship, so the rally leader drove into the final time control station two minutes early, incurring a two-minute penalty, and elevating Solberg to victory -- his fourth consecutive win in Wales.

Loeb, whose Citroen team is connected with Peugeot via their parent company PSA, ended up third for the event.

Gronholm, who had lost his chances for victory early on with a brake system failure on Friday, was on a charge this morning, but with nearly a minute's gap to Solberg's Subaru, he would not likely have been able to make a serious attack on Solberg even if the rally had run its full course. As it was, he was timed 45 seconds adrift of the Norwegian at the end of SS15, prior to withdrawing from the rally.

Francois Duval, Loeb's junior teammate, was elevated from fourth to second thanks to Loeb's penalty and Gronholm's withdrawal, having been just under two minutes adrift of Loeb on the road.

Harri Rovanpera finished fourth for Mitsubishi after a strong run, having run in third place for much of the event until gearbox problems dropped him back behind Duval at the end of day two.

"The situation didn't look bad when we first saw Markko's car on the road," recounted Harri Rovanpera's co-pilot, Risto Pietilainen, the first crew to arrive on the scene. "But when we got closer, we saw that things were bad."

"The ambulance arrived in a couple of minutes and the helicopter soon afterwards, in less than ten minutes," he continued. "But there was nothing that could be done ..."

Loeb now leads Solberg in the drivers' championship standings by 36 points, and can clinch his second championship by simply finishing ahead of the Norweigian. With his withdrawal and receiving no points, Gronholm dropped to third at 61, 38 points behind Loeb, and with only the thinnest of mathematical title chances remaining.

With Peugeot's withdrawal, Citroen also stretched out a bigger lead in the manufacturers' title race, and now leads its sister marque by 137 points to 117, making a Peugeot comeback a longshot at best.

shares
comments
Michael Park killed in Rally of Great Britain
Previous article

Michael Park killed in Rally of Great Britain

Next article

Rally of Great Britain: Kevin Davies final summary

Rally of Great Britain: Kevin Davies final summary
How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master Prime

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

He may only be contesting a part-time campaign in the World Rally Championship these days, but Sebastien Ogier underlined that he's lost none of his speed in the 2023 season opener. Storming to yet another victory on the Monte Carlo Rally, the eight-time world champion rewrote the history books again as Toyota served notice of its intentions with a crushing 1-2

WRC
Jan 23, 2023
How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling Prime

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

Audi should have been invincible in the snowy conditions that typically greeted the World Rally Championship paddock in Monte Carlo. But unexpectedly warm weather for the 1983 season opener, combined with some left-field thinking from the Lancia crew turned the tables. Forty years on, team boss Cesare Fiorio reflects on a smash and grab.

WRC
Jan 21, 2023
Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion Prime

Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion

M-Sport had a disastrous 2022 with its Rally1 Ford Pumas following Sebastien Loeb’s first-time-out win on the Monte. But now things are looking up with 2019 world champion Ott Tanak leading its attack, and the Cumbrian operation has optimism that it can challenge for a first title since Sebastien Ogier's departure at the end of 2018

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown Prime

The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown

As Kalle Rovanpera begins his World Rally Championship title defence in Monte Carlo, the Finn knows he has a target on his back. But who is best placed to knock the Toyota ace off his perch?

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title Prime

Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title

Question: what could be harder than becoming the youngest-ever World Rally champion? Answer: becoming the youngest-ever two-time World Rally champion. That's quite the challenge facing Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera in 2022, particularly against rejuvenated opposition in the second year of the WRC's hybrid regulations.

WRC
Jan 18, 2023
From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing Prime

From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing

OPINION: New Hyundai rally team boss Cyril Abiteboul admits he’s got a lot to learn, but his F1 experience and evident strengths could mean he turns out to be an inspired choice.

WRC
Jan 17, 2023
The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed Prime

The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed

Toyota was unstoppable in the 2021 World Rally Championship, with an excellent 75% strike rate from 12 rallies. But in a scary proposition for its rivals, the Japanese marque had built a car for the final year of the previous regulations set which it believes was much faster and could feasibly have crushed the opposition completely. Here the story of its mothballed world-beater.

WRC
Jan 1, 2023
Motorsport.com writers' most memorable moments of 2022 Prime

Motorsport.com writers' most memorable moments of 2022

The season just gone was a memorable one for many of our staff writers, who are fortunate enough to cover motorsport around the world. Here are our picks of the best (and in some cases, most eventful) from 2022.

Formula 1
Dec 31, 2022